All it takes is 21 minutes a year for couples to have happier marriages. This exciting news is derived from a Northwestern University study led by Dr. Eli J. Finkel.
“Having a high-quality marriage is one of the strongest predictors of happiness and health,” said Dr. Finkel. His study found that couples prevent declining happiness and slumping marital satisfaction simply by writing a relationship report card a few times a year.
“I don’t want it to sound like magic, but you can get pretty impressive results with minimal intervention,” said Dr. Finkel.
His research demonstrates that taking a 21 minute writing intervention (which I call a Love Test) helps couples reappraise conflict in their marriage.
Why is that so important?
“This protects couples against predictable declines in marital quality over time. That this effect was not moderated by marital duration suggests that it may be every bit as effective in long-married as in newlywed couples,” said Dr. Finkel. “Given the major health and well-being correlates of marital distress, both for the spouses themselves and for their children and broader social networks, investing only 21 minutes a year reappraising conflict appears to yield a spectacular return on investment”.
How do you duplicate these results in your relationship?
Now and every f9ur months hereafter, take a simple love test, which I’ve summarized from Dr. Finkel’s research report:
* First, ask yourself six questions and jot down your answers to identify marital quality in six key areas:
Satisfaction: I feel Satisfied with our relationship
1=strongly disagree 7=strongly agree
Love: How much do you Love your partner?
1=not at all 7 = extremely
Intimacy How Intimate is your relationship?
1 = not al all 7 = extremely
Trust How much do you Trust your partner?
1 = not at all 7 = extremely
Passion How Passionate is your relationship?
1 = Not at all 7 = Extremely
Commitment: I am Committed to maintaining my relationship with my partner
1 = Strongly disagree 7 = Strongly agree
* Next, you recall the most significant disagreement you experienced with your spouse over the preceding four months, focusing on behavior, not on thoughts or feelings. Jot down a sentence or two describing the disagreement and behavior that upset you.
* Now keep this disagreement in mind and take a few minutes to jot down your answers to three questions:
1. Think about the specific disagreement that you just wrote about having with your partner. Think about this disagreement with your partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved; a person who sees things from a neutral point of view. How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
2. Some people find it helpful to take this third partner perspective during their interactions with their romantic partner. However, almost everybody finds it challenging to take this third party perspective at all times. In your rleationship with your partner, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third partner perspective, especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner?
3. Despite the obstacles to taking a third party perspective, people can be successful in doing so. Over the next four months, please do your best to take this third party perspective during interactions with your partner, especially during disagreements. How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next four months? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship?
* See how your answers to these three questions affect your interactions with your partner over the next four months.
* At the four-month mark, take this love test again and repeat it every four months thereafter. Why?
Because taking this love test for a total of only 21 minutes per year has been proven to entirely eliminate the predictable decline in overall marital quality. Dr. Finkel suggests this could be explained by a reduction in conflict-related distress over time.
Did study participants avoid fighting during the two-year span of Dr. Finkel’s Study?
No. They did not avoid fighting, but the study found that “the couples who did the writing exercise three times a year recovered more quickly from arguments.”
“Apparently connecting between fights paves the way for a speedy recovery when we do fight.” Dr. Finkel said. He claimed that these findings add to the growing body of research demonstrating the power of brief interventions (love tests) to promote achievement, health and well-being.
These findings provide especially compelling evidence for the power of adopting a perspective from a third-party individual who adopts a neutral point of view and wants the best for all involved to reduce anger vis-a-vis relationship conflicts.
“Future research is needed to determine whether the 21 minute reappraisal intervention (Love Test) that adopts a neutral third-party perspective is sufficient on its own to yield salutary effects on relationship quality,” Dr. Finkel admitted.
Why wait months or years for relationship researchers to test what you can test for yourself right now?
Why not invest 21 minutes every four months to take this Love Test and adopt a third-party perspective to find the good that can come out of a conflict. Notice if this reduces conflict-related distress and increases marital qualities of satisfaction, trust, intimacy, passion, love, and commitment.
This is one more love tool to add to your Couples Love Toolkit that you develop as a member in TribeOfCouples.com
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